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The Lonely Tree
Hurt Stoker: Chapter 2
© 2013 James LaFond
On The Running Board
The enormous rumbling diesel pickup truck sat four fools wide; a most uncivil vehicle if one thought about it. And Whiff did ponder this rude conveyance in order to keep his mind off his own perilous plight; for he stood, in his hard-soled shoes, upon the beer spattered wrought iron running board clutching the noir-industrial blued steel door knob with his two small sweaty hands—too small to wield a good homerun bat, and apparently too small to keep his well-dressed behind from falling and being dragged to his doom!
You were right after all about Uncle Yank Daddy; but two men lynched in The CS-of-A this year—both in murdering Texas I might add—and now this, into the hands of three dirty drunk Yanks and a witless local boy; all made possible by Union Motors I might add as well!
Shoot, this thing is intentionally designed to drive good Southern motorists off their own narrow roads. It is a belching tourist-boasting monstrosity—weighs more than a milk truck I suppose, with the ugly lines of some coal train designed by Satan to feed his furnaces of eternal damnation!
Why the oil it takes to run this thing for a month could keep a family warm for the winter.
The rude images from the television of long-haired, face-painted, guitar-screeching Yank performers chanting about the ‘heavy-metal magnetism’ of such vehicles assaulted his mind’s eye. Even the music of the North was rude, as rude as these belching pickups endorsed by screeching witchdoctors banging their electric guitars, aired between the plays of those obnoxious football games.
This was one reason why he avoided TV and kept to the radio. One could while away the evening listening to a good game of baseball: Negro League or Interstate. But football, that commercial war-game of the industrial North, was to be seen on the common screen; a common sport; for the common dregs; of a common nation—financed by Union Motors and advertised by the noir-industrial freak-of-the week!
Darn that hurts!
I guess they don’t want to drag you. That tug on your neck is all that kept you on the running board.
At least this fool is strong. I shall reason with him. He is big enough to act unilaterally.
As if his dumb behind would know the definition of the word.
All the better if he is soft-headed…
The belching monstrosity, near twenty-feet-long, rumbled down the road as his sweaty hands continued to clutch the door knob cast as a miniature image of some Yank musician’s godless guitar; even as his ears were assaulted by the blaring of some satanic guitar song on the car radio.
Poor Earl, is that what they had him do, when he fled up North to the Union Motors colony? Was he copying some satanic guitar into a grill or door knob for one of these demon-trucks?
He was artistically inclined.
You know better than that Whiff. He came back with a rupture before his second year—just used him up and sent him south of The Line with The Sign…
He began to cry, thinking of Cousin Earl being legally lynched nine-years-gone, as he came back across The Line with the “Hang me for a Negra Yank’ sign hung from his neck. Once one became a Union Negro the laws of the CSA did not apply. And with no Union Motors insurance adjuster wanting to be liable for the medical cost of repairing his rupture—the fate of the Union Negro Returned had been Cousin Earl’s to lament.
“And it wasn’t even ruled a lynching don’t you know!”
Whiff had not even known he was speaking. That just came out, and the big beastly brute drinking from a bottle of Iron City malt liquor, spat some foam in his face despite the rushing autumn breeze, “Say what boy?”
Whiff just nodded and willed his tears to stop flowing. Then the local boy—well-dressed and jammed between the others—pointed to a red-dog secondary road and the drunken fiend piloting the death-music inspired locomotive of a truck turned sharply onto it, shattering the bole of a maple in the process, without even slowing the progress of the demon-truck. Whiff’s now well-lubricated neck was yanked uncomfortably against the abrasive noose that confined it, reminding him of what awaited; reminding him that the maple in their wake was not the only innocent thing these fools intended to kill tonight.
Do not give up Whiff!
I know, I know—the show is not over until the cash-drawer is locked.
On the beastly automotive rumbled into the tunnel-like forest in the dead of night. The moon that had arisen by now could not be seen, nor the stars either. So it seemed to Whiff, as he peered into the oncoming darkness that turned to green leaves and brown boles under the bright yellow glare of the single great headlight of this death-machine, that he rode an infernal vehicle that seemed to be racing into the very pit of Hell.
To Reason with Fools
At last the truck entered a clearing by a pond, not far from the waterfront—in fact, not very far from that pleasant creek called Middle River, where he had recently chartered a paddleboat for himself and Captain Mason Simms. They had been accompanied, of course, by Miss Majesty; otherwise know, as ‘The Elegant Quatroon’, his most famous and sought after performer; a peerless dancer, singer, and entertainer of the more intimate sort—but only for the right Southern Gentleman.
Yes, that was a pleasant well-appointed day: sweet iced tea; fiddle and song…
It was a point of honor with Whiff that he had never let his star performer be sullied by the hand of some commoner, and not even the hand of the richest Yank of them all; for every Yank, even their President, was a common man, with low-down common appetites! When Saul Mays, owner of the Chicago Supersonics, had come south, to Whiff’s little winter house, seeking out Miss Majesty, with enough money in his pocket to buy the State of Maryland, or at least Saint Mary’s County, Whiff had sent him away with a handshake and a Cuban cigar, “Thank you, but no thank you Sir. I am a Confederate after all. Good day.”
That had been the most pleasing and dignified moment of his life, and it was made all the more savory by the thought that he turned up his nose at more money on that one afternoon, than he would make in the rest of his life—If you live through this fool. They are throwing the rope over an oak limb.
The big man was placing Whiff in the bed of the pickup. He looked down through the stainless steel grid of the bed at the idle driveshaft underneath, feeling the rumble of the engine, smelling the sooty diesel, and looking at the interior of the tailgate toward which he was being walked. Two of them were looping the long end of his hanging rope over the oak limb and the third, the local boy, was tethering it to the trailer hitch. The rope was becoming taut and he began walking on his tiptoes toward the tailgate, “Wait, wait, let me say a piece!”
He had expected to be more calm, more reserved, liked that time those VMI brats attacked Jordy and he calmly coached them as to how to remain among the living by falling over and playing dead and begging for mercy while his prize boxer laid them out each in their turn.
What I would not give for Jordy and his meaty fists now!
The weasel-faced one below, who seemed to be in charge, spoke up over the rumble of the idling engine, an engine that no one was attending—What if it slips into gear?
Why my neck will be stretched!
The weasel-faced leader was speaking, slurring his words like a drunken fool, “Look negra, we don’ care how well-dressed you is. We drove all the way down here from Allentown to hang us a negra, and you the one we seen, so hanged you will be.”
Oh my, this one is more daft then the big one next to me, and the other one is gleefully smiling.
He looked into the eyes of the leader and saw only darkness.
He looked into the eyes of the beastly one towering over him by his side and saw only idiocy.
He looked into the eyes of the tall one and saw only hunger to commit a heinous crime.
Oh my, he is purely evil.
You are not lost. The local boy averts his gaze.
Address them all, but him you must reach, “Gentlemen I trust you are aware that this undertaking is against municipal, state and interstate laws, and could result in untold hardship for all involved.”
The evil tall one blurted, “Mostly fer yer stretched neck negra!”
“Yes, most assuredly so—but for all of you good folks as well. Now, I might add that I am a man of means, and am prepared to pay quite a ransom.”
The leader offered, “Oh we ain’t kidnappin’ ya negra, we hangin’ ya. Besides, Boomer there next ta you, his Dad owns the Pittsburg Brewing Company. Our asses—if caught—are as good as bailed out—en Southern Tom here, we comp, comp, comp”—Oh no, I am to be lynched by sub-literates!
Whiff had always been a stickler for proper English usage and had a hard time abiding Northern fools and their butchering of the language. Against his normal civil nature he cut into the man’s useless attempt to complete the verbalization of a prescient thought in the form of an acceptable sentence, “Compel: you are compelling Tom here to go along with this. Therefore he is not liable under the applicable CSA statute for Collusion to Defame the Confederacy.”
Silence reigned, except for the rumble of the idling engine.
The leader then pointed his finger in agreement, “Yep, just like your back-sassin’ ass said. So Boomer got money, Tommy got money, Diddle here got his butcher knife which is all he care about—and me, while Diddle making crab-bait out of you—see, this is all about a bet as to whether or not a negra makes good crab-bait—I’ll be taken that money belt of yours. You see Mister Negra, the lynching part is the only sociable thing about this entire process.”
Oh my God, I have fallen into the hands of a truly evil lot. These are Northern criminals, the ones the Pinkertons call ‘serial killers’ I bet. My lynching is a mere misdemeanor to obscure the true nature of their crime!
The tall evil one named Diddle drew a large kitchen knife which he fingered, as he grinned. Whiff, for once, having come face-to-face with true, pure, apolitical evil, was speechless.
He just looked from face to face, and all stared back except for Tommy—Yes, you fear your new friends, fear for your own fragile life; don’t you Tommy.
“I forgive you Tommy!”
Tommy looked away toward the ground and the others joined in a cruel cacophony of laughter at his squeamish ‘Southern’ nature. Then the leader, a man who remained nameless, snarled to Diddle, “You know, even that prissy hooker up in Syracuse didn’t forgive us before we finished. En this negra forgives without a tear. Let’s make this last boys—up on the gate!”
On the Tailgate of a Dilemma
Tommy turned away in tears, crying into his hands, while Diddle and the leader pulled on the rope and adjusted the tie on the trailer hitch and Whiff scrambled up to the top of the tailgate with his slippery shoes, to prevent his head being ripped off. He would have surely fallen and hung himself if not for the sadistic aid of the big man behind him, who held his hips so that he could balance himself on the black iron tailgate, studded with 31 chrome stars for all the states of the godless Union nation.
It was a crime that such a vehicle would even be permitted below The Line. But the Confederacy needed the Union tourist dollar. Indeed this had been the source of his very prosperity, and was now the source of his infinite woe. An icy chill crept down his sweating back as he considered that his end was near; that he had grown complaisant and careless, like the Ole Boy himself, while some evil Union terrorists were plotting his demise.
Lord Above—No, not yet, there is Tommy.
He pranced now on the slick top of the tailgate, glad to have been an athlete—even if not of the highest caliber—in his youth. Indeed his Negro League connections had helped him often with this and that, and him and her, and Old Sir as well. But just now, it was his three years as a no-hitting short stop—a short stop a might too short for the job, but with nary an error to his shame during his three seasons with the Virginia Beach Fins—that kept him alive.
You are a man and you will live as long as you might,
Stick with it Whiff,
Don’t fear the night.
Keep your fat behind dancing,
For surely all of those muffins-past will stretch this noose tight!
You should have held the oleo every once in a while!
As he cursed himself silently for a dead fat man and wished he had Jordy’s big thick neck, the men below laughed and patted one another on the back. They then hauled a cooler of beer out of the beer closet behind the cab and before the bed and dragged it out to serve as a bench that the three of them might sit on, while poor Tommy averted his eyes and stood listlessly by.
The cooler was a big black box in the shape of a bridge beam, decorated with images of the football heroes that played for the Iron City Steelers at Three-Rivers Stadium, one of the ‘Seven Union Wonders of the North’, all dedicated to the god-awful gridiron game.
He wanted to plead with Tommy, but realized that he would only add to the boy’s torment.
What could the poor fellow do to save me from these three?
He then had an inspiration as the leader pointed at his Jamaican goat-hide loafers and laughed, indicating that they would serve as their hangman as they drank their beer in the lurid shadows of the two red taillights.
The beast-mobile still rumbled low and blared it’s harsh yellow light against the crowded trees behind him, giving him the feeling of being on stage, and bringing back some of his old gift for gab, “Gentlemen, might I suggest a wager?”
Boomer picked his nose.
Diddle licked his lips.
But the leader stopped laughing, “What manner of wager negra?”
“In my cash box, at my trailer, I have two sets of CSA-SC tickets to Cuba, gifted me by a certain young gentleman who owns a sugar plantation and rum distillery. You fine gentlemen might find all the sport on that island you desire. Why they still shoot labor union organizers down there. I could arrange for a tour.”
He slipped a bit and caught his breath at the pressure of the noose.
Yes, leave out the part about Captain Anderson being a Yankee hating sort with a dungeon for Union drug smugglers he waylays on their way back from Columbia.
I’ll survive this yet—write a book I will; how I survived the Yankee Noose! A best seller it will be!
I’ll name my next suit Tommy, the matching loafers Diddle and Boomer, and have a weasel-fur scarf tailored to match in honor of this jack-of-an-ass!
The leader conferred with his companions and then came to stand before the tailgate with his bottle of Iron City malt liquor, “Okay negra, here is the deal.”
The man then downed half of the beer in a rude swig-like gulp and belched, and seemed to forget he was trying to sound like Southern trash, “We got us a good six-seven hours before daylight. If you can stand on this gate for that long, we will cut you down. If you survive the fall you have a deal, and we’ll go crabbing with chicken parts. Tickets to Cuba are unattainable up north and we would not mind us an island paradise for a while this winter.”
Whiff nodded down at the man, “Very well, then, a deal it is.”
Then the terrible weasel-faced man in his threadbare flannel shirt and Brooklyn Ballistics starter jacket poured the remainder of his beer out over Whiff’s shoes, “Don’t slip now boy!” and returned to his unsavory company for a fresh beer.
Whiff tried to reposition himself so as not to be on the wet portion of the gate and Boomer threw his half-finished beer bottle. The glass bottom of the swirling fountain of suds struck Whiff in the ankle. He winced just so, just enough, and lost his footing. He slipped and slid to the right until only the hard sole of his loafers just below his right pinkie toe had contact with the vehicle.
Oh Lord, I’m praying to you now! I hope you have not tuned out my radio frequency...
Statutory Reference
On the Status of Negroes
No Negro ward of the Confederate States of America is, ever, to be illegally hung; or lynched, or otherwise killed by an individual or group, under any circumstances. While the protection of Union Negroes who might wander ‘South of The Line’ can be of no concern to the CSA, this Confederacy will not tolerate the killing of its own wards. Lynching is thus, herby, declared to be an ‘interstate’ crime against the entire Confederacy, and shall be punishable by a fine, imprisonment, or colonial deportation and indenture, depending on the status of the wronged Negro.
-The Act of Segregation, 1934
Literary Reference
The unspeakably degrading term ‘negra’ is a most unfortunate, insulting, and positively feral insult to members of the Negro population of our beloved Confederacy, by those lower orders of the White Race who see fit to demean themselves by the degradation of their very wards. My word, if some trailer park hoodlum is permitted to utter such malign references to our good Negro folk without at least the fear of a civil fine, then these good people should be permitted to call themselves ‘colored’, or even ‘black’, and to defame the backwoods and backstreet rabble of The South as lowdown white trash!
Until the incivility penalties of White and Negro are equal under the law than we are no better than the air-polluting river-killing Yankees, at whose hands the Union Negro is famously mistreated in the most unchristian ways.
-Ann Marie Logan, in an editorial for the Confederate Conscience, March 16, 2011
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